Scales of War
Chapter 6 Adventure Summary
More than sixty years, four faction-leaders met beneath the Damaran mountain range in a last-ditch attempt to broker peace between the warring factions. However, their efforts failed, due to the machinations of a mysterious figure known as Annatar, the Lord of Gifts, who became known to later generations as the Corruptor. His interference in Damaran politics sparked the flames of ethnic and religious tensions, shattering peace and leading to generations of strife. Today, the region around the Damaran range is under the rule of a joint human-orc racial oligarchy (called the Axis), with the duergar as a lesser caste of overseers and enforcers and dwarves enslaved, with no basic rights. Worship of the Obsidian Warrior is compulsory, with ordinary folk working themselves into drug-induced fits of frenzy and offering sacrifices to this dark god, most commonly through the vile practice of injecting spider-venom into the left eyeball (a practice thought to have originated with the orc chieftains who chose to bring their people under the worship of the Obsidian Warrior). Though the Axis has prevailed for roughly a decade, slave revolts are common, and have recently mobilized around a charismatic dwarven resistance fighter who claims kinship with Ceyx, the last noble dwarven chieftain who fell into dark worship and thus contributed to the undoing of his people. This dwarf fighter, Alcara by name, has sworn to free her people from the shackles of oppression. Of the Corruptor, there is now no trace. Having accomplished his task, he disappeared when the Axis rose to power, and has not been heard from since…
It is January, in the heart of winter. Across the Elsir Vale, snow lies on the ground. Though nothing overt has threatened the Vale for a few months, fear lies heavy on the hearts of many, particularly in the city of Overlook, which along with the fortress of Bordrin’s Watch has always stood as a bulwark against incursions from the west.
Since their last adventure, Den of the Destroyer, the Heroes of the Second Wind have not been idle. Though no dire threat has forced them to take up arms, each hero has spent the time in intensive training, gaining new expertise and adding training in disparate disciplines to their already former repertoire of battle maneuvers. The mul barbarian Theseus has emerged from his training a more nuanced and self-aware combatant, able to temper his explosive charges with quick strikes that send his foes sprawling to the ground and aid his allies. The gnome Nissa, a bard of growing repute, has begun to master the art of inspiring her allies to strike with lightning quickness. Though the half-witted eladrin Aldor Rake bears no outward trace of change, his fellow adventurers are aware that he wields an arcane power that continues to grow stronger, even as he struggles to push back the mists of memory and uncover the secrets of his dark past. And finally, the Fist of Sehanine has put down the holy symbol in order to pick up the shield of the knight, rededicating himself to the Moon Goddess by spreading her faith through feats of arms, not by calling directly for her intervention.
In Brindol, the heroes receive an urgent sending from the wise woman Haelyn, caretaker of the shrine of Erathis in Overlook. In this message, she warns that “a shadow under threat is hanging over this city. Erathis has give me to see it. I cannot say what exactly it is, but a dark power masses, and its time draws near. I know of no greater heroes than the Second Wind. Please aid us!”
Upon their return to Overlook, the heroes initially find nothing amiss, though the city appears to be on the verge of paranoia, mobilizing for battle even though no foe is currently at the gates. An encounter with the Fist’s former superior and current enemy Ellis Sheppard sheds some light on the matter; now the owner of a weapons store (Call to Arms), Ellis’s rise in Overlook is predicated on a bitter distrust of others, with an ugly tinge of racial prejudice (his shop is closed to eladrin, gnomes, and many other races). From Ellis’s words, the heroes infer that he has fallen completely from his former service to Sehanine, choosing now to worship Dispater, Lord of Dis, the Second Hell. Through Ellis’s grudging help and a conversation with Lavinya, priestess of Erathis, the heroes discover that several of the city’s priests are acting peculiarly and, perhaps more importantly, Haelyn, keeper of Erathis’s shrine, has vanished. In her place is a dark-robed man, a certain Grovald, who claims that Haelyn has gone on a spiritual retreat to restore her faith. However, Lavinya confirms what the party already suspects: that Haelyn’s faith was strong, that she needed no spiritual retreat, and that Grovald is likely responsible for her disappearance. From Ellis the heroes learn that Grovald worships Geryon, the exiled archdevil with whose followers they came into conflict in Chapter 4: A Song of Fire and Ice.
Attempts to worm the truth out of Grovald only reveal Grovald’s perfidy, and thus the heroes decide to investigate the shrine after dark. At the shrine, Theseus scouts ahead of the party, only to run into an armed Grovald, flanked by hired thugs, while mysterious assassins lurk in the shadows. A pitched battle ensues, in which the heroes methodically dispose of all Grovald’s henchmen before taking him prisoner. No doubt Grovald has answers to some of the heroes’ questions, but getting him to reveal those answers may be a difficult task…
Grovald confirms his allegiance to Geryon, but also reveals that he is in the service of Sarshan, the mysterious arms dealer whose dark schemes have plagued Elsir Vale in recent months. After a debate about whether to spare Grovald’s life, the heroes of the Second Wind decide that it is of greater importance to keep undercover and prevent Grovald from alerting others to their plans. They slay Grovald, sending his spirit to rest with his dark master Geryon, the exiled archdevil.
A search of the fireplace in Haelyn’s old home turns up the fragment of a letter from Sarshan to Grovald. With the help of Aldor’s magic, the heroes are able to reconstruct the note in its entirety:
I will be unreachable for a time, as I must oversee matters at Mountainroot Temple. Follow the priests’ orders as you would my own. As always, be certain you destroy this missive, or else General Zorn will be displeased. -Sarshan
Attempts to garner information about Mountainroot Temple reveal that the temple was built by the same dwarven craftsmen who constructed the Monastery of the Sundered Chain, which the heroes visited in Chapter 2: Siege of Bordrin’s Watch. Myth and folkore tell of a centre of worship that held great reliquaries of holy icons, enormous cathedrals where hundreds could worship at once, and even a doorway to the Astral Plane whence angels and exarchs of Moradin would appear to discourse with the god’s most favoured priests and champions. To facilitate a grand community of Moradin worshipers, the Mountainroot Temple had, in addition to its astral doors and its main entryway into the mountains, four mystical doorways constructed. Each linked to another temple of Moradin elsewhere in the world, so the faithful could come and go with ease.
The heroes remain uncertain, however, as to what Sarshan and his ilk want in Mountainroot Temple. Thus they decide to continue their investigation in Overlook. The conspiracy in Overlook’s priesthood has a strange focus on the reconstruction of the Stone Anvil, the old temple of Moradin that has fallen into disrepair in recent years. A close and tense encounter with High Priest Karros reveals that Durkik Forgeheart, the leader of the Moradin church in Overlook, has strangely reassigned most of the clergy to reconstruct the old temple. With an audacious combination of intimidation, cunning, and bold-faced bluff, the heroes are able to shadow the doppleganger posing as Captain Aerun from Swain’s Boarding House back to an abandoned warehouse, where they fight a number of possessed citizens as well as hired thugs and assassins. Deep in the warehouse, concealed in a trapdoor, is a cell containing the real Durkik Forgeheart, but it is guarded by a vicious trap designed to kill the dwarven cleric if anyone tries to free him. The rule-bending talents of the Second Wind, though, enable them to free Durkik, who informs them that one of the mystical portals in Mountainroot Temple is located in a hidden sepulcher beneath the Stone Anvil. Therein lies the reason for the conspirators’ interest in renovating the Stone Anvil, though it remains unclear why Sarshan (and his superior, the mysterious General Zorn whose past is linked to that of Aldor Rake) is so interested in Mountainroot Temple.
Durkik has much to tell about the history of Mountainroot Temple, but is puzzled as to why why Sarshan (and his superior, the mysterious General Zorn whose past is linked to that of Aldor Rake) is so interested in Mountainroot Temple. “I don’t know why this General Zorn wants the temple, but it’s clearly what he’s after,” Durkik says, his voice still weak from days of torture and starvation. “It’s funny, he’s had me tortured for days to make me describe the Mountainroot’s mystical defenses, but the truth is, I don’t know much about them. I know about the temple only because, as High Priest, I was told of it by my predecessor. I can tell you that the defenses are psychically linked to the Caretaker, allowing him to control them, but beyond that, I know little. But even had I told them that much, I doubt they’d have believed me.”
“I don’t know why he wants the temple,” he repeats, “but I know it cannot be good for us. I know not who else in this city might have been compromised—who can be trusted. That leaves only you.
“The entrance from the Stone Anvil is carefully hidden within an old sepulcher. The chamber is hidden behind a secret door; I can escort you to it, but no farther. What I cannot do is tell you how to access the portal, for I don’t know, and I am oathbound never to enter the sepulcher. But my hope is that, once you find it, you can figure out how to use it.
“I must ask you one thing more,” he adds swiftly. “When the Mountainroot Temple was abandoned, the priesthood took most of our ancient religious relics with them. Most, but not all. Somewhere within the temple lies a tome entitled, when translated into Common, the Incunabulum Primeval. It is a book of great power for those who know how to use it. If you can find it and return it to us, I can promise you a reward of no less than 3,600 gp from the temple treasury, as well as legal right to any other treasure you find in, and can carry out of, the Mountainroot.”
The heroes agree to investigate the temple and recover the Incunabulum Primeval. Journeying to the sepulcher provokes a confrontation with a spirit of Moradin, who challenges the heroes to solve a series of parables that demonstrate Moradin’s teachings. Pressed to the limits of their resourcefulness, the heroes prevail, proving that they are as adept at waging war with their wits as they are with blade and spell. Once through the sepulcher, they face another test: combat against a number of eerie writhing chains, to prove their strength of worship. Though the battle goes well for the party, it is not over yet, and Moradin teaches that complacency is the enemy of virtue…